Reviews written by JJBlanche
Last updated: May 21, 2009
|Flavor / Mouthfeel||4.0|
I hadnâ€™t had a good absinthe in quite a while, and figured it was time to pick up a bottle. After poking around drinkupNY, it seems like fresh US offerings are being released every day, as the selection has gotten vast since my last purchase. Indeed, much to my surprise and delight, among the best of these (Vieux CarrÃ©) is from a local operation, Philadelphia Distilling Company. A quick stroll down to the local spirits shoppe, and I had a [rather attractive] bottle in hand.
I should preface this review by noting I havenâ€™t had a great many absinthes to this point. Just Duplais Balance, Lucid, and US KÃ¼bler (Balance being far and away the best of them). Enough to more or less know what Iâ€™m talking about, but far from an expert.
Neat, it tends more toward an aged absintheâ€™s feuille morte, amber-green, rather than the verdant green most expect. I donâ€™t find this to be inappropriate or unattractive, so no points docked in this regard. However, thereâ€™s a notable (some might say significant) amount of particulate. It settles out when given enough time, but even a slight jarring of the bottle brings it all back into suspension. This may be a style/motif Philly Distilling is going for, and I donâ€™t find it off-putting, but all the absintheâ€™s Iâ€™ve tried and seen have been filtered to clarity. Iâ€™d give it a five if it was crystal clear, but Iâ€™m going to have to dock a point for particulate. Iâ€™m tempted not to, as I feel this was a deliberate move on the part of the distiller, but for now it gets a point off.
4 of 5
Occurs fairly fast, as others note. Well on itâ€™s way to complete opacity at 1:1, pretty much there at 2:1, and completely opaque at 3:1. Very nice oil trails, nice layering, and the characteristic opalescence of a good â€˜sinthe. Still, though, a bit too quick, and not quite perfect.
4 of 5
When cracking the bottle, one smells â€“ wait for it â€“ absinthe! Itâ€™s quite good, with the alcohol well masked. Alpine meadow is clichÃ©, but nonetheless a good way of describing it. Definitely a step above the KÃ¼bler (one dimensional) and lucid (close to one dimensional). Hard to say how it stacks up to the Duplais (which I liked quite a bit), as its been over two years since Iâ€™ve had it. In all, Iâ€™d stop short of calling it an ephiphanal, room-filling majesty, but still very good, and better than all but the best.
4 of 5
Very, very good. Sampled at the distiller recommended 3:1, which I found to be about ideal. Refreshing is a good way to describe it. Feels substantial in the mouth, not too thin. Mix of herbs. Nuances to explore. Still not what Iâ€™d call perfect, but very solid.
4 of 5
I think the finish is where this one stands out the most. It has a very alpine, almost citrusy effect that lingers for some time. Solid 5 in this regard.
5 of 5
A solid product, at a competitive price point. Definitely one to try, particularly if youâ€™re in PA. Not what Iâ€™d consider a â€œgrailâ€ absinthe, but better than all but the best.
4 of 5
|Flavor / Mouthfeel||4.0|
Lucid: A Nice Start for the American Market
Others have said that Lucid is the minimum acceptable with regard to absinthe quality. I'll say that it has established itself as a baseline in the American market. I've been trying to come up with an analogy for Lucid, and I think I've arrived at one that makes sense, at least for those of us that drink beer. Lucid is to absinthe as Guinness is to stout. Both are pretty much the minimum required quality in their respective sectors, and both are widely consumed based more upon [relatively] low cost and availability, as opposed to intrinsic merit.
Ruminations aside, it is a pleasant drink, but the value comes into question, considering you can get 3 bottles of the [superior] Duplais Balance for 56 each through LdF, at the time of this writing (that is, of course, if you're willing to "buy in bulk," otherwise the shipping will kill you). By contrast, I paid $70 for the bottle of Lucid. For someone that only wants a single bottle, that price is hard to beat, but if you have the cash to lay down $170 on three bottles of Balance, that is probably the better route.
Regardless, I'll get down to the brass tacks of the review, as I'm sure anyone reading this is not interested in budgeting tips. I was on the fence regarding color...3 or 4? I gave it a three because, in my opinion, it has a certain lack of clarity, a kind of very faint, white prelouche, if you will, that I don't think should be there. Not unattractive, but if you hold it up to the light it is not exactly clear, and, thus, not exactly a four. No nuclear fluorescents, though, which is what I was expecting when I first heard of Lucid.
That aside, the louche was close to spot on. In fact, I'd say this is Lucid's best quality; it puts on quite a nice show. One point shy of the mark, though, because it wasn't quite the epiphany-in-a-glass I'd expect from perfection.
With the aroma, I was again on the fence. When I smelled it neat, it certainly reminded me of the Duplais I've had in the past (ie: it smelled like absinthe should). However, there was something not right. It seemed too simple. In the glass, diluted, there's not much more complexity to be had. One reviewer somewhere mentioned that there was the slight odor of Mexican spices. Underneath the peppery scents, I do detect something that is vaguely reminiscent of cumin. Granted, I don't think Breaux is tossing taco kits into his vats, but this odd smell is still present, if one looks for it. Ultimately, I'm sure it would pass for a four in some cases, but not with me. A solid 3...not terrible by any stretch, but certainly not great. Good on a good day, passable on every other.
Flavor was a dead ringer for a four rating: "correct, pleasant, enjoyable." I really could not have said it better myself. Of course, this is about as subjective as it comes, and is handicapped by my lack of experience, but I find Lucid to be all of the above. Granted, my palate isn't developed to the point where I can identify the individual nuances of the respective herbs, but with Lucid there aren't too many nuances for me to focus on. In this sense, although it is quite pleasant and enjoyable, it falls short of the European varieties. I can't call it one-dimensional, because it's quite a step up from that, but when push comes to shove I'm sure the die-hard absinthe enthusiast would give Lucid a 3, or even a 2 for flavor, but as a casual sipper, I give it a four with no reservations.
With the finish, "present, but unremarkable" sums it up quite nicely. As others have said, fennel bomb. Not out of line for an absinthe, per se, but not distilled genius either. If I were to drop pretensions and be true to my taste buds, I'd give it a 3.5, but as I don't have that option, I'll just keep my nose in the air.
Overall, I think one needs to consider that this absinthe is being hocked, first and foremost, to the bar crowd. Second in line come the curious. A distant third are those that actually enjoy drinking absinthe. Fortunately for us here on the third tier, whomever was behind Lucid had Breaux come up with the recipe. It's quite obvious that cost, and the apparently degraded American palate, came into effect during its development, but the end result isn't bad.
In fact, when I first got wind of Lucid I dismissed it immediately as a gimmick, but when I heard Breaux was behind it, I had to try it. Now that I have, I can't say that I have any regrets. Would I buy it again? I haven't come close to finishing the bottle, so I couldn't really answer that, but who knows? (ie: most probably) It's not bad, like I said, but I'd be so much more willing to spring for this if it was $50 as opposed to $70. I suppose when you stack this against its European counterparts, it is of dubious value, depending on several factors. If you like absinthe, and haven't spoiled yourself with the top of the range, I'd say grab a bottle, you probably won't regret it. Lucid is also ideal for the uninitiated. If you hate Lucid, chances are you won't like any other 'sinthe.
We'll see if it grows on me, but in summation Lucid gets a solid threeish, with no points given for value or any of that. Hovering around three, on a scale where PF 1901 or Belle Amis is approaching five, is not bad at all. Indeed, for the first US absinthe to even be compared to those greats is quite a testament to its validity.